Latinx Reception of Greek Tragic Myth: Healing (and) Radical Politics

by Aikaterini Delikonstantinidou (Author)
©2020 Monographs 294 Pages
Series: Dramaturgies, Volume 41


A compelling contribution to the largely understudied field of Latinx theatre, this book unpacks new developments in the Latinx and American cultural landscape registered by contemporary plays inspired and based on Greek tragic myths. It examines dramatic revisions of the myths of Medea, Oedipus, Electra, and Iphigenia by notable playwrights Carlos Morton, Cherríe Moraga, Luis Alfaro, and Caridad Svich for what they reveal about the increasingly complex, diverse, and globalized Latinidades of the post-Civil Rights Movement era. Through its discussion of six Greek-inflected mythoplays, the book brings to light emergent and transhemispheric dimensions taken on by mestizaje; the latter construed as an ethos, reality, and discourse central to any conception of Latinidad, however plural. Mestizaje is shown to be tuned to a tragic key in the theatrical corpus of works on which the analysis focuses, and it is to this tragic key that the book attributes the works’ singular sociocultural and political import. Emphasis is placed on the tragic mode as a rich source and potent ally in the plays’ attempt at configuring and applying a distinct kind of radical politics and a healing function while targeting, principally but not exclusively, Latinx communities of/in crisis—including barrio, LGBTQ+, and borderland communities. By aligning the plays’ decolonizing impulse with the productive question mark of the tragic, the book calls attention to the brisk energy that the tragic myth’s reception by Latinx theatre infuses into the afterlife of the tragic, as it breaks new, syncretic ground in the latter’s reception history and contemporary rethinking.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Prolegomena: Mestizx Mythopoesis
  • I. In Lieu of a Preface
  • II. From Pre-colonial Myths to Post-colonial Mitos and Beyond
  • III. The Greek Mythos of the New Mitos
  • IV. Latinx Mythoplays and the Tragic Mode
  • V. Setting Down Methodological Caveats
  • VI. Overview of the Chapters
  • Chapter 1 The Tragic Mode: Modus Politicus, Modus Vivendi
  • I. Introduction to the Tragic
  • II. Building on the Tragic Opus
  • III. The Tragic and the Political
  • IV. The Tragic and the Therapeutic
  • V. In Lieu of a Conclusion
  • Part One: Mestizx Medeas
  • Chapter 2 La Malinche
  • I. Setting the Stage
  • II. La Malinche: Medea as an Aztec Vigilante
  • III. Uncovering/Recovering from the Colonial Wound
  • Chapter 3 The Hungry Woman: A Mexican Medea
  • I. Setting the Stage
  • II. The Hungry Woman: Medea as a Mexican “Huerfana Abandonada”
  • III. Acts of Birthing/Acts of Killing as Acts of Healing
  • Chapter 4 Mojada
  • I. Setting the Stage
  • II. Mojada: Medea as a Traumatized “El Guaco”
  • III. Mojada as Social Theatre and as Therapy
  • Part Two: Mestizo Oedipus
  • Chapter 5 Oedipus el Rey
  • I. Setting the Stage
  • II. Oedipus: Oedipus as a “Destined. / To be. / Destined” Homeboy
  • III. Oedipus el Rey as Social Theatre and as Therapy
  • Part Three: Tragic Daughters I: Mestiza Electra
  • Chapter 6 Electricidad
  • I. Setting the Stage
  • II. Electricidad: Electra as a Barrio-Bound “Old School Chola”
  • III. Electricidad as Social Theatre and as Therapy
  • Part Four: Tragic Daughters II: Mestiza Iphigenia
  • Chapter 7 Iphigenia Crash Land Falls on the Neon Shell That Was Once Her Heart: A “Rave” Fable
  • I. Setting the Stage
  • II. Iphigenia Crash: Iphigenia as an Old Victim for a New Age
  • III. Healing and the Politics of Love
  • Epilegomena
  • Works Cited
  • Index
  • Series Index


Six years ago, I embarked on a journey of reflections, affections, thought and word experiments through the (border)lands of the U.S. Latinx reception of Greek tragic myth. Having now reached what is perhaps the most important point of the journey, the point where I get to share my doctoral project with the world, I realize that it was not the things I’ve learned but the people I’ve learned them with what made this a thoroughly rewarding experience.

The source of the most valuable rewards out of the many I’ve reaped in the course of this journey is my supervisor, Professor Savas Patsalidis, whose mentorship is only matched by the vastness of his knowledge and understanding of the theatre. His passion was contagious, as was his impeccable work ethics. His guidance, coolness, as well as the solid intellectual and affective ground he provided me throughout made this project possible. No one and nothing can be lost when he is around. I am blessed to have shared this journey with him.

And as if that blessing was not enough, I’ve had the honour and delight of also collaborating closely with Professor Yiorgos Kalogeras, a beacon of wisdom, optimism, and serenity. It is so empowering to have met such a true Teacher whose winning sense of humour, sagacious mind, and generous heart serve as a source of inspiration for everyone around him. He is the one who introduced me to the fascinating field of Latinx studies and the one who showed me how to navigate through it. I will be forever grateful to him for that.

I also owe a debt of gratitude to Professors Yiorgos Anagnostou and Zoe Detsi, who have offered me treasured advice and words of encouragement, and whose trust has made me a better person, as well as to Professor Tatiani Rapatzikou for her kindness and generosity. My heartfelt thanks go to the faculty members as well as the administrative and technical personnel of the School of English, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, who made me feel at home since the first day I set foot on the School’s grounds.

I should not fail to thank the artists whose work this study engages, Caridad Svich, Carlos Morton, Cherríe Moraga, and Luis Alfaro, for the interest they have expressed in this project and for their contribution to it. Further thanks go to all the scholars and activists whom I have contacted during my research and who have supplied useful input.

On a slightly different note, I owe the sincerest gratitude to the Hellenic State Scholarship Foundation, which has honoured me with three scholarships since the beginning of my graduate studies. Without this financial support, I doubt whether any of this—including this publication—would have materialized. A special thanks is also due to the Research Committee of Aristotle University for awarding me an Academic Excellence Scholarship in the first year of my doctoral studies and to the Hellenic Foundation of Research and Innovation for offering me a scholarship a year later. I must also thank The Society for Multi-Ethnic Studies (MESEA), the European Association for American Studies (EAAS) and its Greek branch (HELAAS), as well as the European Society for the Study of English (ESSE) and its Greek branch (HASE), for the awards and various funds they have granted me during my doctoral years. Finally, I need to express my gratitude to the University of Oxford and its extraordinary Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama (APGRD) for hosting a research visit of outmost importance to my research. The APGRD Director, Fiona Macintosh, and Archivist, Claire Kenward, have been more than helpful and made my visit truly profitable.

Special thanks to Konstantinos Chatzipapatheodoridis, one of my closest friends, brilliant scholar, and inspired artist, who supported this project’s development since its inception and recently decided to capture its spirit in the painting gracing the cover of the book.

All of this would mean very little were it not for my family and friends. Their genuine love, unwavering faith, and hard-won wisdom constantly fuel my willpower. Thank you for seeing the best in me and for making me want to become the best version of myself. This journey has been a pleasure because of you. Therefore, it is only fitting that this book is dedicated to you.

And a final but very important note: Early versions of parts of this book have been published as follows: “Questing for 21st Century Mestizaje in the Realm of the Greek Tragic Myth: Dramatic Mythic(al) Revisions by Cherríe Moraga, Luis Alfaro, and Caridad Svich” in Mythmaking Across Boundaries (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2016); “Caridad Svich’s Raving Iphigenia as Mythical Celebrity and Female Pharmakos” in National and Transnational Challenges to the American Imaginary (Peter Lang, 2018); “Luis Alfaro’s Chicano Take on Electra: A Barrio-bound Electricidad” in Cultural Palimpsests: Ethnic Watermarks, Surfacing Histories (Routledge, 2019); “‘Brown Medeas’: Reconfiguring Mestizaje for the 21st Century” in Ex-centric Narratives (Issue 2, 2019).


Mestizx Mythopoesis

I. In Lieu of a Preface

In an interview I conducted with Caridad Svich on June 12, 2014, and, specifically, in responding to an inquiry about the reasons why she chose to engage with Greek tragic myths for her theatre work, the playwright described the process of sustaining a dialogue with the ancient mythical source texts as one of “re-falling in love with” and “wrestling with” them.1 She also described it as a process involving dramaturgical choices which mix and elbow with the Greek mythical material. It was in this way that Svich concisely articulated the foundations of the practice of creating “dramatic mythic revisions” of ancient Greek tragic myths (Chirico 2008); that is, creative re-writings of these myths that aim at both capturing the myths’ core meanings and critically opening (up) new meanings behind them.2 It is a practice that marks not only much of Svich’s post-millennium theatre work, but also some of the contemporary work of other Latinx3 (and Chicanx) theatre practitioners, namely, Carlos Morton, Cherríe Moraga, and Luis Alfaro. Thus, William Garcia’s argument that “the Latin American playwrights have not been oblivious to the rewriting of tragic myths originally elaborated by the Greeks” is corroborated (145), whereas U.S. Latinx-specific dimensions are imparted to it and hitherto underrepresented folds are revealed in it. The present study suggests that this is a practice deserving of our attention mainly for three different, but equally important, reasons.

First, whereas engagement with myth is anything but alien tradition for Latinx artists, engagement with Greek tragic myth to attend to U.S. Latinx realities, especially to the extent that it occurs in the past three decades, signifies a crucial development in the theatre of the Latin American diaspora in the U.S. This is a development in the direction of reaching out and opening up to inter/transcultural flows, or even to “the globalization of Latinidades across the world,” to use Ana Patricia Rodriguez’s resonant phrase (222), and one that occurs in full view of twenty-first-century specificities, challenges, and problematics. The fact that the tragic mode, operative in the Greek myths which are being revised, is seized on and employed as having radical political and therapeutic possibilities points emphatically to the artists’ need to respond with urgency to the present conditions of the world. More than that, though, given the growing demographic significance of the Latinx population, this emerging theatre practice further points to a significant development in the broader American theatrical and cultural landscape which grows increasingly “transnationalized by Latinos/as’ transmigratory presence” (222). The said developments seem to be paradigm-changing, in terms of outreach and influence.

Second, indications and evidence of the beneficial role of this kind of revisionary theatre in the experience of (sociocultural) trauma4 and in the practice(s) and process(es) of healing, with regard both to the individual and the collective, such as those that the present study hopes to bring to light, might lead to the adoption of more and more effective institutional policies and other relevant actions on the interface of health/well-being, arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Third, the revisionary theatre work that falls within the purview of this project is conducive to carving out space for the advancement of existing and cultivation of new cross/inter/transcultural bonds between Greek and Latinx culture(s) and the respective diasporic communities in the U.S. and beyond—including collaboration between the fields of Hellenic and Latin/x American Studies.

In what follows, a framework, as comprehensive as possible, is provided within and by means of which a profounder understanding of both the parameters of the said Latinx, Greek-inflected, theatre practice and the reasons for pursuing its close examination can be fathomed.

II. From Pre-colonial Myths to Post-colonial Mitos and Beyond


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2020 (July)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 294 pp.

Biographical notes

Aikaterini Delikonstantinidou (Author)

Aikaterini Delikonstantinidou is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Athens, exploring myth-based digital theatre for second chance adult education. She holds a PhD in Theatre Studies and degrees in Adult Education (MEd), American Studies (MA), and English Language and Literature (BA).


Title: Latinx Reception of Greek Tragic Myth: Healing (and) Radical Politics
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296 pages